Paris Tips: My Bucket List Recommendations
Text and photos by Theadora Brack
Rumor has it you’re planning a trip to Paris! So bless your soul and grab my hand. I have a few recommendations for a dreamy Parisian bucket list, big or tall. Here is where I find my inspiration!
1. Book it!
While slipping down the cobblestones, why not pick up a Paris-related book or novella? Check out Shakespeare & Co. at 37 rue Bûcherie (Metro: Saint-Michel). Located in a former 16th-century monastery near Notre Dame, it is the most enchanting bookshop in the city. Plus, the cozy 5ème CRU wine bar is located just around the corner at 7 rue du Cardinal Lemoine.
Try their signature charcuterie and fromage platter!
I also dig the San Francisco Bookshop at 17 Rue Monsieur le Prince (Metro: Odéon). Here is where I recently scored a well-loved copy of “A Literate Passion: Letters of Anaïs Nin & Henry Miller”). I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. It’s the ultimate starry-eyed read and worth a pickup. Here’s another sampling!
Henry wrote: “In Paris, on the asphalt, I have often walked saying: wild, wild, wild. You just say it, and walk, walk, walk. It makes everything rise, swell, burst. Then I am so happy I cannot bear it any more and I begin to sing. It is cause for bliss. You can get drunk on walking.” Heck, I’m now, now, now a believer!
2. Eat, Drink and be Merry
And speaking of Henry’s valentine, he also penned, “The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware: joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware!”
Here’s the squeal: Paris is made up of beaucoup boulangeries, poissonneries, caves, and cafés, éspiceries, fromageries, charcuteries, pâtisseries, chocolatiers, confiseries, and glaciers. Don’t walk away, Renée—splurge away! Also, ask for samples and recommendations. They know.
My gastronomical checklist
Don’t leave the city without trying a crème brûlé, a meringue, and at least one macaron, along with a baguette, a pain au chocolat, and a selection of young fromage (difficult to find outside of France). Let’s not forget the wine and the crêpes!
3. Big City, Bright Lights
I also advocate sipping a round on a café terrace. Winter, spring, summer and fall, you won’t forget it! For pumped-up kicks, give Suze a shot! A gentian-based apéritif, this old-school bar favorite is typically served on ice with equal parts water or orange juice.
Back in the day, Picasso quipped, “I put all the things I like into my pictures—too bad for the things, they just have to put up with it.” Yes, the iconic bottle played muse to Picasso back in 1912. Hands-down, his super-cube collage “Verre et bouteille de Suze” always sets my rain on fire!
4. Parks and Rec
After you’ve picked up your reads and nibbles, head to one of my favorite parks: Jardin du Luxembourg, Jardin des Tuileries, and the Jardin du Palais Royal (Metro Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre). All three parks are worth the trek!
Fit for a King
I also recommend the Square du Vert-Galant (Metro: Pont Neuf, Cité). Here is where Hemingway would chill with wine, books, and sausages while watching the fishermen. “They always caught some fish,” he wrote, “They were plump and sweet-fleshed with a finer flavor than fresh sardines even, and were not at all oily, and we ate them bones and all.”
Flashback: For the love of vitality, admiration, and gossip, Parisians gave the little tear-drop-shaped park the flamboyant King Henri IV’s nickname, “Vert-Galant,” or “Gay Blade,” since he was larger than life, compassionate, and wildly loved.
Mad about music, women, and wine, this is where the dashing royal horsed around with his friends, entertainers, and favorite mistress, Gabrielle d’Estrée. As he liked to say, “Great cooking and great wines make a paradise on earth!” Oh, la la.
Cemeteries are also perfect spots for a little peace, love and understanding. I often curl up with Oscar Wilde at the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. Like a new pair of cat eyeglasses, the calm terrain not only changes perception, but also attitude. The surrounding beauty both soothes and re-energizes my spirits every time.
Here you’ll also find comfort with Chopin, Modigliani, Proust, Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison. It’s free, and the perfect Paris experience, rain or shine. Come with a journal or sketchbook in hand. In the words of the Wilde, “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” By the way, he also said, “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” Just praying.
After nightfall, treat yourself to a cab ride in the City of Light. This is when the city truly twinkles. If you’re not already a wee intoxicated, you soon will be. I guarantee it.
Tip: To catch a ride, keep your eyes peeled for a cabstand. You could also hoof around the city after sundown. In Paris I always feel safe as houses, even when I roll solo.
6. Eiffel Tower
Add it to your list. Just do it. I also recommend buying an Eiffel Tower keychain at one of the souvenir shops in Montmartre. For the true love of corn, you’ll thank me one day in the near future. I have no doubts and no shortage of miniature replicas in my very own big box of life’s mementos!
7. Up on the roof
Everyone in Paris has a favorite nook of paradise. Where do I go for a little escapism? I make my way downtown to the Galeries Lafayette Grand Magasin’s rooftop, where the lights are much brighter and the view is always free.
Up here, you’ll spy the Opéra Garnier, the Tour Eiffel, and Sacré Coeur. It’s another perfect spot to recharge your spirit and soles with sunsets and to-the-horizon boulevards and buildings of Haussmannian architecture.
8. Quill Power
Go vintage! Buy your postcards at the flea market! In the world of texts and emoticons, a little handwriting will feel good to the hand, spirit, cat sitter or paramour! Start the search for “cartes postale ancienne” at either the Porte de Vanves Flea Market or Clignancourt Flea Market at Caveyron Devey, located at stall number 7 and 8 in the Passage Lecuyer (off Rue Jules Vallès).
Bon Voyage! Carpe diem!